The Provance Blog

The Provance Blog will provide you with expert advice, insights and opinions in regard to IT Service Management, Microsoft, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft System Center.  

Tools or Toys? Bar Code Options for Modern IT Asset Management


Think about it. Does the checkout clerk pull out an iPhone to tally up your purchases? Does the UPC guy track your parcel with his Blackberry? When you board a plane, does the security guard use a Nexus to check your boarding pass?

Of course not.

That’s because these important business functions require the support of the most advanced and reliable technology available. They depend on accurate bar code scanning using industry strength, professional grade readers that are highly accurate, robust and secure. Consumer electronics simply don’t have the necessary performance and durability.

When your smartphone hits the shop floor. Professional bar code readers are engineered to rigorous durability standards. The military grade MIL-STD 810G requirements for stress testing means they're built to survive drops to concrete from as high as 5 ft. Tumble drum testing proves the device can endure 1,000 consecutive half-meter tumbles (2,000 hits) — and still deliver dependable performance. And the IP54 sealing rating means the device can withstand a water spray of 10 liters per minute at a pressure of 80-10kPa for at least 5 minutes.

Smartphone meets concrete 

 An important part of IT asset management is maintaining an accurate inventory of millions of dollars’ worth of devices, laptops, PCs, servers and other hardware. IT asset life cycle processes for inventory management like receiving, tracking and verification require physical identification of hardware and the ability to access and edit data. This is accomplished through the use of bar codes.

That’s because IT asset management is an important business function that depends on accurate bar code scanning using industry strength, professional grade bar code readers that are highly accurate, robust and secure.

Now, some will suggest that smartphones can be used for scanning. That’s a little like using a Swiss army knife when you need to drive a screw. You can get the job done, but not nearly as well as with a screwdriver.

Smartphones are not a viable platform for providing the capabilities required by business for bar code scanning.

Professional bar code readers are specifically engineered for rapid and precise scanning using the most powerful and advanced technologies available. Laser and photodiode technology is the fastest and most reliable method of reading symbols from a wide variety of materials on irregular surfaces, even in extreme lighting conditions. Mobile readers offer cellular, wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as Ethernet and USB network access while cradled for charging. Ergonomically, mobile readers are designed for easy and comfortable all day use. Simple point and click operation does not require swiping, tapping and focusing, and choices between numeric, QWERTY, DSD, AZERTY and QWERTZ keypads facilitate much more efficient, error free and convenient data entry than touch screen typing.

Because bar code readers are used in industries with stringent regulations — including PCI in retail and HIPAA in healthcare — they provide strong security capabilities. Native FIPS 140-2 Level 1 certification and support for the most advanced encryption and authentication algorithms as well as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) meets compliance required for these standards as well as government level applications.

Smartphones, on the other hand, are consumer devices optimized for voice calls, text messaging and data exchange, and support general lightweight computing using small applications (apps). Most include integrated cameras for medium resolution digital photography. While smartphones are capable of running apps that use the integrated camera and image processing techniques to decode the bar code, they are no match for the highly optimized performance of a bar code reader.

According to test findings, professional bar code readers are three times faster than smartphones. That means what you can do in 15 to 20 minutes with a reader will take an hour to accomplish with a smartphone; what would take a weekend would take over a week; or what you could do in a month would take a fiscal quarter. That translates to enormous labor savings. It would cost $90,000 a year to achieve the same results with a smartphone as a single technician earning $30,000 year using a professional scanner! 

Who will win? Watch this race between the RedLaser app on a smartphone and a professional bar code reader.


When it comes to durability, most professional bar code readers meet MIL-STD and IEC specifications for drop, tumble and sealing. That means the devices can withstand drops to concrete from at least 5 feet, and the IP54 sealing rating certifies that performance will not be compromised in dusty environments and exposure to rain or spills. By comparison, smartphones are vastly more fragile and far less suited to rigorous warehouse and receiving dock conditions. There is a distinct benefit in terms of dramatically lessened repair requirements and downtime favoring bar code readers.

Don’t monkey around. Your smartphone is great for calls, texting and apps — but leave bar coding to the professionals. Your business depends on it.



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